The Ely City Council voted unanimously to approve entering into a lease agreement for a building to relocate the offices of city hall in their latest meeting inside the armory on April 9.

The 4-0 vote (Councilman Bruce Setterstrom was not present at the meeting) is the culmination of a search for a new building by the city council over the past two months. Previous attempts to purchase the same building, located at 480 Campton Street, were stymied after building inspections showed that more work had to be done to make the entire building suitable for the city’s needs, eventually leading to a veto on the purchase by Mayor Melody Van Camp.

The new lease agreement approved by the council allows the City to continue leasing the building into a second year, with a portion of the rent payments going toward the purchase price, should the council decide to purchase the building at a later date.

City Councilman Marty Westland said in the meeting that something needed to be done in regards to finding a new building so that proper renovations could be made to the current City Hall without disrupting the work of city employees.

The City of Ely will only lease the top floor of the new city hall building for office space. (Garrett Estrada photo)

The City of Ely will only lease the top floor of the new city hall building for office space.
(Garrett Estrada photo)

The council also approved an agenda item to pay the auditing firm Larry Bertsch, CPA & Associates LLP a total of $10,000 for the “forensic examination” of the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation and another $16,705.78 for expenses. Several members of the council and the Mayor stated in the meeting that they felt the Railroad Management Board were to blame for the large expense fees, as they felt the board withheld information and delayed the auditors.

City Attorney Chuck Odgers also stated that the initial invoice for the “examination” was actually for over $44,000 but that he helped negotiate the firm down to the $26,000 price if the amount was paid in full.

Scott Husbands, the management board’s attorney, took issue with the council’s criticism of the board and accusations of being “dilatory.” Husbands said he would also have a legal issue with the council if they tried to have any of the examination’s cost be paid for by the railroad, but was reassured by multiple council members that the debt belonged solely to the city.

A separate agenda item that would have the railroad’s board of trustees chairman and vice-chairman added as signatory’s on the railroad’s bank accounts was tabled until the next meeting. The council said the postponement was due to another meeting, between Nevada Northern Railway’s Executive Director Mark Bassett and City Administrator Bob Switzer, that has yet to take place.

The council, alongside a representative from the management board, also heard from the sole candidate who applied to be on the council’s newly formed debt committee for the railroad. After listening to Michelle Ashcraft’s qualifications,  Van Camp appointed her to the position, which was unanimously approved by the council. Ashcraft ran through her work history which includes multiple accounting positions.

The council’s next meeting will take place at the armory on April 23 at 4 p.m.